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Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by HPA Rep, Apr 12, 2015.
Yeah, wow both supremely nice examples.
What makes American jackets like the B-6 and B-3 so fragile? Is it construction or the type of sheepskin generally used?
The answer is a bit all over the place. The D-1 B-6s were made out of thinner trimmed shearling and were generally not as robust. High demand of sheepskin meant using all of the materials (sometimes not the highest quality). And finally the tanning methods were certainly not made for archival purposes. Add in 70 years of usually poor storage or heavy use. Shake over ice and pour into a chilled glass.
Here are a few photos from my B3 photo archive of some mixed batch jackets. You know when comparing them against Eastmans Mixed Batch. The details from color to cut are pretty darn good.
Icons they are indeed, and the redskin jackets just hit a soft spot with me like no other.
The fragility of the sheepskin is largely and more typically found on the post-1941 jackets and directly resultant from a change in the tanning process, insufficient trained inspectors, and a number of suppliers of sheepskin without ethics and looking to stick it to the government, all of which I addressed in my post #40. No doubt, some sheepskin garments were not stored properly after the war, further contributing to their deterioration. But as I said in post #40, sheepskin problems were extremely significant immediately after production and didn't need even 5 years to pass in order for problems to be manifested. By 1943 and the last sheepskin runs that were turned into AN-J-4s going into 1944, you'd be hard pressed to find an extant example with quality sheepskin, though there are some around. The redskin garments are largely a safer purchase for those lacking experience, because this earlier sheepskin didn't suffer from the same issues affecting much of the post-1941 sheepskin. Finding nice post-1941 sheepskin garments requires a lot of hands-on experience, with the best pieces being those from early 1942 that were left to dry on a metal grate at the tannery; you can see this checkering pattern of the grate still on the sheepskin, and when I run into such garments, it's always a happy ending in bringing back some nice, post-1941 sheepskin garment.
I would also add that the corseal lacquer employed was not the same as what was used on some of the really nice RAF sheepskin garments, so this does make part of the difference between, say, an Irvin and a B-3, in terms of the Irvin being more malleable. I'll speculate and also say the because RAF jackets weren't as heavy as the B-3 (no reinforced sleeves), were better designed with armpit gussets and just overall more flexible, that they lend themselves to greater longevity vs. the American counterparts.
Thanks for posting! That was really nice to see so many, and in variety.
I hate to somewhat disagree, but it's really mostly about the actual sheepskin quality and also the tanning process that was changed in 1942. The AAF and USN did not grant any dispensation to allow lower-grade sheepskin to be employed in order to generate more sheepskin flying suits more quickly and in greater numbers (they did do this with respect to the D-1/B-1 Mechanic's suits, but this had more to do with the non-flying status of the wearer than meeting demands). Poor garment design and change in the type of core seal lacquer also played some role in the fragility of the garments. The very worst scenario in an AAF sheepskin flying garment is one made from low-quality skins, tanned in the manner most were by late 1942, and then re-dyed by the AAF service depots at some later date. This would be the stuff that's really dry and crispy to touch - one good tug and it's done!
As for the B-6s, these indeed lack the reinforcing leather of a B-3, AN-J-4, M-445, etc., but if made from quality skins and stored correctly, they are just fine today. The problem is the small numbers made with respect to the B-6 and most being produced from the bad stuff. Once again, a pre-1942 redskin B-6 should largely be fine if it was correctly stored, it's just that these are so really few and far between. I do own a 1942 B-6 made from the skins I mentioned that were dried on metal grates and it's superb in every way, but I've seen all of two of such B-6s in over three decades of looking for such jackets.
That is absolutely magnificent! It's the best example from Phillips I've ever seen (and Phillips made very few), and just a step or so down from my HLB redskin B-3. I would have pounced on buying that if I had known it was for sale and I don't even consider myself a flying jacket collector. I'd say the amount of sheen in the lacquer core seal is about in the middle of the spectrum, so the most typical, in my opinion.
Andrew, if you ever learn of that coming up for sale again, please do let me know immediately. Thank you.
I can say, John, that HPA customers needing to go up a size are no different in number now than before the "broken grain" skins, and for myself, I wear a 40R in every new Eastman B-3 in broken grain and the SFAD B-3, and in my old ones from the 1990s (my chest measures 40", so no going up a size), which were very much softer when new and not "broken grain."
Regarding leather changing over the years and decades, while some I'm sure has, especially that which wasn't properly stored, I'd say this is more an issue of leather "can" change and not that it "will" or "does" change; I don't believe leather changing must necessarily follow. If a vintage B-3 has been correctly cut to size and assembled, I'm consistently a 40R. My very first B-3, which was a 1942 Werber from back in the 1970s when we had no quality copies and wearing a vintage jacket seemed fine, was a size 42R, but that's only because I hadn't yet found a size 40R.
I am less than convinced that the best examples we may find of vintage jackets and related artifacts have changed in size and/or character in any significant way, with the exception being wool knit, which very commonly stretched out even at the time the object was relatively new.
Excellent info. I have owned many sheepskins as well and had noticed that the lacquer jackets seemed worse off in general. Even a really broken in redskin seems to have faired better over the years than the brown ones!
Also sadly enough I just sold the finest example of a B6 I have ever seen. Though it was a bit flakey, it was without rip and still quite resilient. Hard to let go of. Usually when you find 'em they are shredded.
Wow those textures and colors are beautiful!
That's a fine, fine B-6 you sold. Mine is from the same contract and I'm wondering if the skins on your former B-6 are from that same tannery whose skins have the markings of the metal drying grate impressed in them, thus being the most pliant, durable skins I've ever seen in the dark brown color. Was your jacket pretty pliant and soft overall?
The skins on my B-6 have the wool color much more muted than yours; it's not soling, but just lacking the luster and deeper, buttermilk color I see in yours, which looks so wonderful.
Yes, you could see the grate marks on many of the panels. The leather was still quite supple and pliable but the front two panels less so. When I received it years ago I gave it a few rub downs with 100% pure lanolin (the only treatment I use on my leathers) and that brought back much of the suppleness lost over the years.
Thank you for the Information HPA Rep. :eusa_clap
And Just while we are on the Subject. I realize this is not a perry sportswear Item itself but;
Here is a well loved 46R Mixed batch Aero Jacket *BEFORE* I bought it.
It came from Wyoming and the front pocket was full of Hay, also There was Much horse grime on the Sleeves and I am presuming the Marlboro man himself must have Rode with this thing, With a Real Cowboy hat and All for a long time after the war. Would have been the Jacket I would use on some Campy nights on the range myself. Perfect for those Cold nights rounding up the Herd.
Was Tricky to Tell by studying these photos it was a Mixed batch without a Keen Eye because of how Dry the cuts are.
It is By far the Most Robust Jacket I own.
Andrew Says its a 1941 Jacket.
The back panels are JUST INCREDIBLY DENSE!!!
I will play Dress-up for all you fine gents and take a few Snaps in the upcoming week for those looking for a Nice Ref. to a time worn Piece such as this.
Thank you. You confirmed my suspicions, as I thought I saw some of the grate marks in the one photo. That sheepskin so marked is the best of the dark brown skins you'll ever find, in terms of suppleness and overall longevity. I've seen nicely worn jackets in this hide type and even they are quite good compared to most of what we see in the dark brown skins, but when you find a superb example made of these skins, it's like new. My B-6 of this contract is more supple than a new example from Eastman, I kid you not, which may have more to do with the vintage B-6 having been worn a little. And my HLB B-3 with goatskin sleeve reinforcements is absolutely never worn and mind blowing. Other than obviously devaluing any such superb jackets by wearing them, I'm fully convinced such examples would be wearable and the skins themselves would not split or crack, though cotton thread that's over 70 years old likely isn't going to do well, so splits on sewn seams would likely occur.
I've only seen these grate marks on sheepskin flying suits made by Aero and HLB early in 1942, which doesn't mean it wasn't used by other contractors, but I'm thinking it was a specific batch(es) from early 1942 by one tannery and all were shipped either directly to the tanneries (as was almost always the case) or to a northeastern air supply depot, where the skins were then sent to these New York-based contractors.
Oh, while I have your attention, please note what brand of lanolin you like; I've been wanting to try some. Thank you!
Thanks for the story and the photos, DD! That's one wayyyy cool-looking B-3!!! It would take some fearless, aggressive labor to make an Eastman Perry B-3 look that way, but that would be one awesome result. That sort of heavy wear to the sleeves is partly why I totally love the Eastman SFAD B-3, which I really need to get fit images of posted here.
I love your mixed-batch B-3!
Nice B-3 DD
+1 on DD's B3. Looks to be in good shape and still holding solid. I love the look broken in but not broken!
I use Now Solutions 100% pure lanolin. Marketed as a hand salve actually. I buy it by the 7 oz tub and usually go through about two per year. I use on ALL my vintage jackets, they usually only need one coat per year. I am not super particular about the brand but be SURE to only use 100% PURE LANOLIN (no additives, usually petrol base).